by Thu Anh
Weather gods have not smiled kindly
Peach blossoms, an essential part of Tet celebrations in Viet Nam, are likely to be in short supply this holiday because of cold weather in Ha Noi and the northern provinces.
The special trees, which normally bloom just once a year during Tet, are supposed to bring luck and happiness to people. Having a peach branch on Tet is a traditional practice of Vietnamese families.
With almost a week still to go for the Lunar New Year, many farmers in Nhat Tan, one of Ha Noi's most famous flower villages, have been complaining that their peach trees may not open on time because of unseasonable weather.
Other farmers have complained that many of their trees have perished in the cold.
Nguyen Phuc Ha, owner of a peach garden in Nhat Tan, said he had only 80 trees left, although he had planted more than 120 trees.
Peach trees need milder weather, and with Ha Noi's colder temperatures this winter, including frost, the trees have died or have not bloomed.
Nhat Tan has only 30ha of peach-tree cultivation, serving 70 per cent of the city's demands. Supply is set to fall by more than 15 per cent compared to last year.
Floriculturists predict peach blossoms will be two times the normal price and four times more expensive on Tet eve.
Florist Nguyen Van Binh of Nhat Tan says: "I have 100 peach trees that will bloom if the weather is good. I had to sell my large trees for VND5 million (US$250) to VND15 million ($750) while small branches are VND500,000 ($25) to VND1.2 million ($60). We won't have enough flowers for Tet."
Other flowers such as daisies and orchids will also be more expensive during Tet, he warns.
Like other farmers, Ha and Binh have used light bulbs to warm their trees.
However, people believe that peach trees are most beautiful when the bright pink blossoms are allowed to developed naturally. "God, please, give us sunshine over the next few days," Ha implored.
Free buses for labourers during Tet
" Mom, my son and I will be home for Tet," cried Phan Thi Lich, a migrant female worker at HCM City's Linh Trung Export Processing Zone , while talking on a long-distance call to her mother this week.
Lich left her native province of Nghe An to live in the city in 2000, and has not been able to save enough money to return home for the Lunar New Year festival. Her first four-year-old son has never seen his grandparents.
This Tet, Lich will be home for the first time in 12 years.
She is among more than 3,200 migrant workers who have received free return bus tickets to 45 provinces and cities around the country for Tet, thanks to a charity programme from the HCM City Labour Union and its partners.
"It's so great. My kid and I will celebrate the holiday with our family," says Lich.
Her husband, who works at a textile and garment company in Linh Trung, decided to stay at their tiny rented room in Thu Duc District during the holiday because he wanted to use their savings to buy some gifts for our relatives at home, she explains.
Union chairman Nguyen Huy Can said the union would provide more than 230,000 migrant workers with free inter-provincial bus trips for Tet.
The buses will adhere to safe driving standards and provide quality food services.
"We hope these trips bring a warm and happy Tet to poor labourers and their families," says Can. — VNS